BEIRUT: Art is an expressive tool that reveals to us cultural traumas and flaws, reminds us of better ways, and inspires us to change. For that reason, freedom of expression must be protected, and even encouraged, at all costs.
The American University of Beirut hosted international award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma for its Culture and Freedom of Expression's conversation led by many of Beirut's thinkers and leaders on August 25, along with a musical performance by Fayha Choir at the Assembly Hall.
The motto reads: ”Unity makes strength,” reflecting the cultural healing that we now desperately need. This piece of wisdom was conveyed by culture’s strongest weapon: art; as musical notes carried its message, echoing in the hall.
All throughout the event, hostess Mona El Hallak insisted on the importance of letting go of racism, bigotry, and discrimination of all sorts.
The performance kicked off with a storytelling performance by Nadine Touma from Dar Onboz, where she plays ”Sama,” a boy whose love was not understood, even by his parents, because life made them forget what love is.
They thought he was ill because he expressed his love, until "the city's residents remembered how to live, they remembered how to love.”
Melissa Khairallah and Bahij Jaroudi both accompanied Touma on piano and guitar respectively. She ended her performance on the following note: "A drop of light waiting to meet another drop of light, so that we can dream together and make this world all over again."
AUB President Dr. Fadlo Khouri welcomed the guests and the audience, by emphasizing AUB's leading role in embracing freedoms and being a worldwide renowned boulevard for cultures.
"The light is there. It’s what connects us" he said.
Dr. Khouri later joined Ma, alongside a group of artists and activists, such as Omar Abi Azar, Nada Sehnaoui, Kinan Azmeh, Rima Mismar, and Maestro Barkev Taslakian in a conversation about culture's role in society and in various fields, moderated by Mona El Hallak and Dr. George Arbid.
"What can we do together that we can't do alone?" asked Ma, adding: "We have so many talented people in this room, and I'm trying to ask this question not only in this room, but in many other rooms, because I'm trying to find out what people share in common more than what actually divides them."
Other cultural figures and activists took part in the conversation like theatre actress Hanan Hajj-Ali.
Arabic songs by the voices of the Fayha Choir ended the evening. Both cellist Yo-Yo Ma and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh added their touch to the choir's performance of "Osfour" by Marcel Khalife.
The event was organized by the AUB Neighborhood Initiative, in association with Ma's Bach project.
Yo-Yo Ma is a Chinese-American cellist who got an honorary doctorate from AUB in 2004. His Bach project is a series of performances of Johann Sebastian Bach's six suites for solo cello in one sitting.
Byblos International Festival hosted the project on Saturday making Lebanon the 20th location out of the 36 locations Ma is touring.
The cellist played a rendition of "Tayf" by Mashrou’ Leila both at the AUB event and at his Byblos concert, in act of solidarity with the international Lebanese band whose Byblos concert was boycotted earlier this month.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.